Space heaters and generators can keep you warm, but they carry risks

Photo (c) Cold Snow Storm - Getty Images

CPSC offer tips that can keep you out of trouble

Supplemental heating devices such as space heaters are good to have when the weather turns frigid and you need a little something extra to warm up that room.

But the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) wants you to know that there can be danger associated with these devices if you're not careful.

CPSC urges consumers to take safety precautions while keeping their home warm this winter.

Portable Heaters

Portable heaters – including electric space heaters – according to CPSC estimates -- were involved in an average of 1,700 fires per year, from 2017 to 2019, resulting in an average of 70 deaths and 160 injuries annually.

In this case, size really does matter.

Mallory Micetich, Home Expert at Angi – formerly Angie's List – says you need to be sure the heater is compatible with the size of your room. A space heater that is too large for the room, carries the risk of starting a fire.

“You should also consider the placement of your space heater,” she advises. “Keep it far away from any combustible materials to reduce the risk of fire.”

Placing them too close to combustible materials, such as drapes, furniture or bedding, raises that risk, so she recommends keeping them at least three feet away from these materials.

Fire isn't the only concern with space heaters.

Using space heaters in smaller rooms can dry and dehumidify a room too much, which can lead to respiratory issues.

CEO Tim David of Airlucent, which deals with HVAC/Heating/Air Quality issues, says that when air becomes too dry, “it can cause dryness in the nose and throat, leading to irritation and making it more difficult to breathe." “

This is especially bad for people with conditions such as asthma or allergies.

"You should consider using a humidifier if you are susceptible to these dry air conditions,” David adds.


If your power goes out in the midst of a winter blast, that presents another problem.

If you have a gasoline-powered generator be wary. Generators can produce as much carbon monoxide (CO) as hundreds of cars, according to CPSC.

The agency estimates that more than 800 people died from CO poisoning associated with generators from 2011-2021 -- over 103 in 2020 alone.

Portable generators should be used outside only, and at least 20 feet from the home with exhaust pointed away from any nearby building. Never use a generator inside a home, basement, shed or garage.

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